Ode to the 767

An American Airlines Boeing 767-300

January 10, 2019

MY FONDNESS for the 757, Boeing’s venerable, inimitable twin-jet, is well documented. But hey, how about a shout-out for its slightly bigger sibling, the 767?

The 767 is a twin-aisle, longish-haul airliner that first flew in 1981. With a seven abreast, 2-3-2 layout in economy, it’s a quasi-widebody with seats for around 210 passengers, depending on configuration. It was developed in conjunction with the single-aisle 757. Despite an obvious size difference, the planes have similar internal systems and virtually identical cockpits, allowing pilots to fly both models.

I hate saying it, but both jets are by most measures obsolete. They’re a rare sight elsewhere in the world, where carriers long ago sent them to pasture. But here in the U.S. it’s another story. The 757 and 767 fleets at the big three — American, United, and Delta — still number in the hundreds. The intensive maintenance overhauls and cabin refurbishments required to keep them in the game aren’t cheap, but neither is replacing them outright. Plus the damn things are so remarkably versatile. Short-haul or long-haul, domestic or international, these machines can turn a profit across the whole spectrum of stage lengths and markets. In the case of the 757, as I talked about before, there simply isn’t a newer plane that can match its combination of range, capacity, and efficiency.

I haven’t updated my logbook since who knows when, but I’ve got roughly the same number of hours split between the two models. I’ve been flying them for eleven years now on routes across five continents. While they’re both fun to fly — and my earlier raves for the 757 notwithstanding — if given the choice I will always pick the “seven six” over its smaller sister. The 767s at my carrier are, on average, newer than the 757s, which means the cockpits are cleaner (the filthiness of airliner cockpits is a subject for another time). They’re also roomier and, due to a differently designed recirculation fan, much quieter. (Funny how it’s the ergonomics and creature comforts that mean so much. You probably expected me to say something about speed or engine thrust.) Plus the plane is, well, bigger, and there’s that pilot ego thing. Flying in the U.S. I get to say, “heavy” after our radio call sign, which brings out the little kid in me.

Curiously, at almost twice the size, it’s the 767 that’s lighter and more twitchy on the controls. This is due mostly to a pair of inboard ailerons, which the 757 does not have, and which make the jet surprisingly sensitive on its roll axis (i.e. turns). It’s also quite light on the pitch axis (nose up and down). The 757 is recalcitrant and heavy, particularly on takeoff, requiring a good flex of the biceps to get the nose up. The 767, even at 400,000 pounds, can be flown with two fingers.

With respect to lift and power, both jets are pretty damn muscular. In my previous story I boasted about the 757’s fantastic performance on short runways. Well, the 767 can do it too. And then some…

Cockpit of a Boeing 767.

Departure

We’re at Boston-Logan. We’ve just called for push when the guy on clearance delivery asks if we can take runway 22R. The longer, parallel runway is closed for some reason. “Standby a second,” I tell him.

I look at the chart. “That’s only 7800 feet!” But we send for the data and it all looks fine.

“Yeah, we can do that.”

We’d already set up and briefed for runway 22L. So things get very busy for a few minutes. We have to review the new thrust and flap settings, input the revised takeoff data into the FMS, plus reload the departure procedure, reviewing all the associated turns and climbs and speed restrictions, which are different now. The taxi route, too, has changed and needs to be briefed. When that’s all done, we re-run the checklists. Then it’s time to start the engines and get moving. We’re blocking the alleyway and two inbound jets are waiting; the apron controllers are antsy for us to roll. Believe it or not it’s these first few minutes off the gate, long before you’re in the air, that are some of the busiest and most work-intensive minutes of a flight.

The short runway means a flaps 20 takeoff, which is somewhat unusual. Even so, the numbers say we can use reduced thrust all the way down to an assumed temperature of 45 degrees Celsius. That’s some monster performance on a plane this heavy, with two-hundred people and eight hours of fuel.

I love flaps 20, because the V-speeds are so tame and you’re off the ground in under twenty seconds. V1 today is a measly 144 knots — about twenty less than it’d be at the standard flaps 5. This will give us low (safer) tire speeds and a nice, gentlemanly rotation with tons of runway remaining.

It’s my turn at the controls, and we are in the air by the time we’re abeam the old TWA gates at terminal C. I see the control tower to my right, zipping past out of the corner of my eye, and the old 16th floor observation deck where as a young teenager I spent so many afternoons.

How fun is this? We didn’t use even two-thirds of that runway, and we’re climbing at four thousand feet a minute! No way could a 737 have done this. They’d be skimming into the harbor at 170 knots.

Also it’s Christmas, and I’m wearing one of the Santa hats that Ray, our relief pilot tonight, brought along for everyone.

 

Arrival

It’s just after dawn and the visibility at Charles de Gaulle is fluctuating between a thousand and fifteen-hundred meters. Fog, drizzle — typical Paris morning. That’s a little tight, but plenty good for a Category 1 ILS.

Everything is set up: the arrival, the transition, the approach and the checklists. We’ve briefed the ILS right down to the type of approach lights to expect, and gone over the expected taxi route to the gate — CDG’s spaghetti snarl of taxiways being one of the most daunting in Europe, requiring you to flip back and forth between four different charts and diagrams. Paris won’t assign you a runway until fairly late in the descent, so there’s a lot of talking and button-pushing in the last fifteen or so minutes of the flight.

We’re eight or so miles out on a long final to 26R. Approach control gives us a speed of 170 knots and hands us off to de Gaulle tower.

“Bonjour,” says the tower controller, asking us to slow to 160 knots. We’re following an Etihad A380, he tells us. We can see him on the TCAS screen. Even as we decelerate it looks like the distance between us is shrinking. It’s busy this time of the morning, and controllers are doing their best to get everyone in. Etihad and us are just two of several jets lined up for the runway. The winds, I notice, have dropped about 25 knots in the last thousand feet of altitude. Shifts like that can mess with the spacing.

“Reduce to minimum speed, please,” says the tower. That means about 150 knots for us, with everything out. The flaps are at 25, the gear is down and the landing checklist is complete.

That’s pretty slow. But the A380, just over the numbers now, is apparently slower.

“Go around,” says the tower. Yup, we had a feeling this might happen.

With my left thumb I activate the TOGA switches attached to the thrust levers. The levers slide forward and the engines roar — that grinding, deep-throated lion’s roar that only high-bypass turbofans can make. I loved that noise when I was a kid, and I love it now, making it happen. The jet immediately pitches up to the command bars; the acceleration and climb are instant. The power and acceleration, kicking up through the seat of your pants, is more than just encouraging — it’s something fierce.

“Go around engaged,” says the captain.

“Flaps 20,” I say.

“Positive rate,” he says.

“Gear up.”

There’s so much thrust that the climb feels almost effortless, as if the plane is floating, levitating upwards. Wow, I’m thinking. Has this thing got some juice.

Back in the cabin, half the passengers at this point are probably whispering goodbyes to their loved ones. Go-arounds have a way of scaring the bejeezus out of people. They’re abrupt, loud, and disorienting: the sudden change of pitch, the power increasing, the gear clunk-clunking back into the wells, and so forth. “We were coming down, and then all of a sudden it was up, up up!” It’s not the most sensory-friendly thing for customers, I admit. But for an airplane, that transition from descent to climb is perfectly natural. For the crew, it’s a busy maneuver, but a routine one just the same. If anything, let all that racket assure you that the pilots and their plane are doing exactly what they need to.

“When we level at three,” I say, “Let’s do 200 knots and flaps 5.”

The missed approach altitude is only 3,000 feet. So now, only a minute or so into the climb, the thrust levers come hauling back. The engines wind down nearly to idle and the nose falls back to the horizon. Again this is all perfectly natural, but likely a bit alarming to the vacationers back there.

I’ve got my eye on the airspeed, because I don’t want to overspeed the flaps or slats as they transition to the 5 setting. But the jet handles the level-off just fine — as smoothly and safely as you could hope for.

Then it’s another big series of turns, descents, speed adjustments and checklists as ATC brings us around. I’m flying while the captain is talking to the controllers, eyeing the fuel gauges and setting up the FMS again. Ray, in the jumpseat between us, makes a PA and talks to the flight attendants. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but hopefully he’s not too cavalier with the microphone; this is one of those instances where passengers go home with some hair-raising story about a “near-miss.” We were nowhere remotely close to colliding with that A380, but phrases like “a little too close to another plane” play to people’s fears.

I’m just hoping they don’t switch runways on us, because that would require loading the new approach, verifying all the points and altitudes, and another briefing.

Fortunately they keep us on 26R.

So, what do you think the odds are for two go-arounds? Don’t laugh, it’s actually happened to me. Once about eight years ago, in a 757 at La Guardia, and another time in 1992, in a Beech 99 at Hyannis.

No, not today. This time we’re first in line for the runway, and the rest is all just kinda boring.

 

The 767 has existed in three basic variants. The original, short-bodied -200 model is all but extinct, while the -400 was a sort of orphan project that sold only a few dozen examples. The -300, particularly the -300ER (extended range), is the one you see most commonly today. In fact this plane remains in production. It’s been years since a passenger model was sold, but Boeing continues to roll out brand new 767-300 freighters, FedEx being the biggest customer. These have a redesigned, 777-style cockpit. A military tanker, called the KC-46, is also based on this airframe.

 

Related Stories:

ODE TO THE 757. HOW BOEING SHOULD, AND SHOULDN’T, REPLACE ITS MOST VERSATILE TWIN

FAREWELL DOUGLAS. TWO CLASSIC JETLINERS ARE PUT TO PASTURE.

IT LOOKS LIKE THE FUTURE. UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH THE 787.

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70 Responses to “Ode to the 767”
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  1. Johannes Bols says:

    My parents owned a Chrysler New Yorker that I enjoyed driving around 1987. The engine had a turbo feature that was a total wow.

    That’s what taking off in a 757 was like. The same sensation of being absolutely blown down the runway! The only aircraft with that kind of thrust. It was a United Airlines 757, in case different carriers use different engines.

  2. Gwen says:

    I will be flying a 767-300 (United) soon and seeing this article makes me excited for it! As I saw my aircraft is one of the ‘older’ ones I was a bit worried it will be uncomfortable. But I am looking forward to seeing it for myself now.

    Regarding the go-around, I have experienced it once myself. As an aviation enthousiast I was not worried at all and kinda figured what was going on. But I was quite some very nervous people in the cabin wondering what was happening. I was sitting next to a mom and her child and the kid screamed full of joy: ‘YAY, another take-off) As we had the go-around like 1 second from touchdown. This was on an Easyjet flight to London Gatwick, the captain told us we got some turbulent air from the A380 in front of us!

    Thanks for this great piece!

  3. Chico Cornell says:

    I don’t like flying on red eyes, but the best one I ever had was quite memorable, in a good way. It was Lan Airlines from Lima Peru to LAX on a 767-300. And both the movies I watched on the seat back were James Bond movies. Who can beat that?

  4. Michael S. says:

    One more item I forgot to mention in my wish for Boeing to come up with a modernized 767 that’s a modernized flight deck and instrument panel.

  5. Michael S. says:

    I’ve been on the 767, both the 200 and 300 variants a number of times and it has always been my favorite aircraft on long haul flights, the 2-3-2 cabin layout is one reason, it’s very comfortable when I travel with somebody and there isn’t anyone else sitting next to us, which is the case with most narrow-body and wide-body aircraft these days. Of course if you prefer to have 3 seats you can choose the 3 in the middle.

    I know aviation well and Boeing supposedly replaced the 767 with the 787, which in some ways not true, mainly because most of 787s don’t have the 2-3-2 cabin layouts. I know it may not be feasible for Boeing and airlines, but it would have been good to create a 767 variant with a lot of composite materials, more economical engines, higher fuel capacity and range, and one that can fit in between the 757 and the 787. Yes, there is the 767-400 but from an economic standpoint, acquiring such aircraft wouldn’t make sense for most airlines, since the 787 can do a better job. But, who knows, maybe the 797 can fill those shoes.

  6. U. David says:

    Thanks for this story- pilots’ perspectives on the experience of flying different aircraft are always interesting to read. A question: the 757 obviously outperforms both the 737 and A320 (though, as I understand it, it was also designed for longer flights to begin with); is the 767’s performance superior to other aircraft of comparable size as well? (The A330-200 seems like the closest analogue.)

    Another airplane/traveler nerd question: what makes CDG’s airfield layout such a snarl of taxiways? Its runway layout doesn’t seem very conceptually different from, e.g., ATL, or does it also suffer from the same issues?

  7. Rick Kearl says:

    I’m a private pilot; but I’ve logged about 2 million air miles. The 767 has and still is my all time favorite plane to fly. Big enough but not to big:
    Boeing should update it with a carbon fiber fusealoge, wings new ringing.

  8. Mary says:

    As a former flight attendant, I used to fly primarily 767s, and I have a special fondness for them in all their lengthy glory.

    We used to say about the 767-400, you know that dream you have where you’re running down a hallway but it just keeps going and going and you can never reach the end? That’s what working the 764 is like. 😀

  9. Ramapriya D says:

    I’ve not been in a flight that’s had to do a go-around but since the engines would be at TOGA and we’d be accelerating skyward, I’m sure it wouldn’t bother me. My dread is some day having to be among the pax in some Dash-8 or Twin Otter whose noses pitch down on finals. A terrifying prospect somehow. What on earth were the designers of those aircraft thinking?

  10. KD says:

    When these 767s exit the fleet, what do you see yourself piloting?

  11. Jack says:

    You are such an arrogant guy.

    “Back in the cabin, half the passengers at this point are probably whispering goodbyes to their loved ones.”

    “Again this is all perfectly natural, but likely a bit alarming to the vacationers back there.”

    Passengers are the ones who pay your employer; show them respect and compassion.

    And for one minute put yourself in the minds of the hundreds or thousands of people who have been killed in airplane accidents, including flights piloted by “i know it all” pilots like you.

    • Adam says:

      Jack,

      What is the difference between arrogance and confidence? Whether you are correct / “right” about your assertion.

      In this case it is Patrick is *right*.

      He is simply stating what is likely happening. No arrogance here. Patrick describes this well and the statistical likelihood of getting hurt in an airliner is very VERY low and the terrified passengers in back, mid-go around, know that … even though their bodies feel otherwise.

      I put myself in the back – a lot. And yeah, it isn’t fun at times, ok, ever.. but the fact is the numbers are on our side. Whether we are in front or in back.

  12. Andrew says:

    But did you tell the passengers about, and the need for, the missed approach? I didn’t see that in the article. I was flying to LAX once on AA, and we did one. The pilot came on telling us that although he could see the runway, AA minimums required the missed approach and he didn’t get back to us right was since “he was rather busy at the time”. turns out we diverted to Palm Springs and sat there for an hour before coming back to LAX. (He actually allowed the passengers to deplane there IF they didn’t have to get luggage from the hold. That was kind of neat.)

    I enjoy your columns. I loved the 767, hate the 757 as a passenger…a long long tube.

  13. tim hartzer says:

    One of your best. My first of many flights to CDG was on a United 767 in 1990.

  14. Robert says:

    I fly a lot from Lima, Peru to Toronto or Montreal and Air Canada uses a 767 on the route. There are no screens for movies on the seats or anywhere for that matter, and instead there is only streamed wi-fi. I have a much greater respect for the airplane after reading your tale.
    I used to fly American a lot up to Miami or Dallas from Lima and they used (and may still do) a 757. I prefer the 767 for the space.
    Speaking of go-arounds, we had one on KLM flying from Caracas to Amsterdam many years back. The pilot was making a scheduled landing on one of the Dutch islands off the coast of South America in the middle of the night when the big 747 juiced up and gained altitude again. The pilot said they were coming in too high. I joked about this being on the way to Amsterdam…

  15. Thomas says:

    The rotate-speed was not specified?

  16. Bruce says:

    This is a lovely article – exactly the sort of thing I’ve enjoyed your writing for since you were in Salon all those years ago. Thank you.

    As a passenger, I always liked 767s because, until the introduction of the 787 and A350, they had the cabins with the most airy and relaxing feel.

    My main memory of the 757 is an alarming aborted flight from Manchester to Arrecife in 1983: it was Air Europe’s first 757, and it had only been operating for a couple of months. When we got on, the plane was hot. As we taxied, it got hotter. And as we gathered speed on the runway, it became unbearable. By the time we’d been flying for about five minutes, people were fainting: the temperature was over 50C. The flight crew made the decision to land back in Manchester without even taking the time to ditch fuel: we were told later that had we spent the necessary time to fly over the Irish Sea and ditch fuel, people may have started dying from the heat. Apparently, there was some fault that meant that hot air being brought in to the cabin from the compressors was not being cooled, and we were being slowly cooked.

    I was only a kid at the time, but I remember seeing the fleet of fire engines chasing us down the runway as we landed with full fuel tanks. The FAs opened the doors as soon as we’d landed, to get some cool English air into the cabin as quickly as possible. No-one was seriously injured, but a lot of people had passed out by the time we landed.

  17. Michael Kennedy says:

    Very nice, Patrick. You made me feel like I was there . . .

  18. Karen says:

    Fun post, Patrick! I always think of 767s as the planes with the shaking overhead bins. I am also one of those passengers who grips the armrest when a go-around happens (or, well, when anything I’m not expecting in a plane happens). I know it’s irrational, but I’m a control freak so don’t love flying. I always appreciate when the pilot explains what’s going on (or just makes clear everything is ok). Love your blog!

  19. Hi Patrick - says:

    Hi Patrick – love your blog – great stuff. I flew in an AA 767 in the late 90s from Orly to ORD that had some sort of a generator failure and we made a very quick, slightly scary uneventful landing in Shannon for three hours while AA flew in a mechanic and part from LHR. Made for a very long day. Love those 57s and 67s – got to fly in a 767-300 last summer to Iceland – very cool.

    Your book is great as well. Small world story, I grew up in Ipswich and live in Peabody…my oldest son is a sophomore at St John’s Prep, which if memory serves me correct from your book is where you went. Check out the two aviation galleries on my website…

    https://www.saporitophotography.com/Aviation/
    https://www.saporitophotography.com/Aviation-II/

  20. Bill Imbergamo says:

    Excellent piece. I flew in from Houston to IAD on a 757 on Monday night. Lucked into a seat behind the bulkhead on the right — so away from the big bulge in the boarding door. Smooth as a gravy sandwich and 10 minutes faster than the announced flight time — flew into a pretty good headwind on landing and the plane did not bounce. I rarely see 767’s on domestic routes, unfortunately.

  21. Jonathan Shahar says:

    I am a retired airline captain. I flew the 767 under the Israeli flag of El-Al from 1984 till my retirement – 2002. Thank you for your vivid description of the airplane I loved from day one of my simulator training . Crossing the Atlantic in those pioneering years ( the 767 was the first twin to get permission to fly 800 nautical miles from an alternate) was so relaxing – after doing it on the 707, with engine problems and fuel worries … Keep up the job of flying the 767 !

  22. Alex says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Question…if flaps 20 allows for a slower/shorter and in your opinion safer takeoff, how come flaps 20 isn’t the standard setting for most situations? Why flaps 5? Is it because the aircraft performs better and/or more efficiently in the initial climb-out with flaps 5?

    On another note, you really don’t like the 737, do you? Haha…you love to work in a dig at that plane whenever possible. That made me think of another question. Would you accept a position flying the 737 if it meant a raise and promotion to the left seat? Or would you hold out for another aircraft type?

    Cheers.

    • Simon says:

      LOL. You’re kidding, right? Nobody loves the 737.

      • Ben says:

        The 737 is by far the airliner I have flown on the most, and probably many others around the world when it is the best selling jetliner in history. However, I remember the 737 Classics being quieter then the succeeding 737 NGs, and is usually pretty cramped even in first and/or business class seats let alone economy. It is incredibly loud and takes a lot of runway at take off. I have yet to fly on the newest MAX variant of the 737, but I recommend avoiding the MAX-200 at all costs when it crams 200 seats into the 8 length that normally has 186 in an all economy configuration.

        • Adam says:

          I have flown on SWA new 737-8 MAX from LAX to MDW. It was significantly better. Seats were very comfortable with actual lumbar support, cabin had nice lighting and an airy feeling. SIGNIFICANTLY quieter with less vibration. Very comfortable flight. Compare with the way back with a 737-700NG and the improvements were clear.

  23. Really enjoyed reading this story. Thank you for sharing this with us Patrick. All the best, Carolina at GSE Solutions.

  24. Adrienne says:

    Thank you for another great article, you have a very nice way with all of the “jargon” and a gift for making it and the story flow quite lyrically. I developed a terrible fear of flying somewhere along the way in my extensive travels, and a very wise doctor suggested to me that one way out of this fear was to learn everything I could, as a non-professional, about aviation and how airplanes work. Long story short, hundreds and hundreds of hours listening to Channel 9 on United (am a United lifer due to high Mileage Plus status) and watching aviation videos on YouTube later, I developed a working amateur knowledge of aviation, the fear is completely gone, and I find the process of flight to be exhilarating once again. Have nothing but the highest respect for the skill and professionalism of the men and women who pilot these incredible machines! And yes, had a great go-around last year at LAX, an A380 wasn’t quite getting off the taxiway and onto 24L quite fast enough……we were pretty low already and took off like a rocket! Was very exciting, even if we were only in a pokey 737!

  25. Jeffrey says:

    “. . . With a seven abreast, 2-3-2 layout in economy, . . .”

    Maybe 20 years ago. But we just flew with Delta on one last month and it was 3-3-3. Worse yet was the Honolulu to Seattle leg of out trip on a 757 that was 3-3 with seats so close together that the knees of my 6’2″ son were touching the seat in front of him and even thin people had to walk sideways up the aisle to the head.

    Pilots like to sing praise of the avionics of certain planes seeming to forget that the paying public doesn’t care if it’s two engine, four engine or a wound up rubber band as long as the seats don’t suck. 99.99999% of us don’t fly business or first, so the layout of the cabin is a million times more important than whether pilots like the way a plane handles.

    When Boeing first announced the 787, they went on and on about how spacious the cabin is. A Piper Cub is spacious with no seats in it as well. Otherwise, while the 787 may be stingier with fuel, it’s relatively wide cabin just allows airlines to cram two extra seats across in economy.

    The only decent long haul aircraft are still the 747 and now the 777.

    • cbw says:

      Sorry to correct you, but you must’ve gotten your plane types mixed up. Delta doesn’t have any 767s with 3-3-3 seating. They do have some 777s with that seating arrangement though. All of the US carriers still have a 2-3-2 on the 767, making it one of the nicer economy rides in this country.

    • Simon says:

      And believe it or not, with 3-3-3 in a Triple-7 you were lucky. Lots of carriers have now gone over to 10-abreast (3-4-3) seating in economy. Enjoy the 767 and A330/340 while they last. Those are the last wide bodies we’re bound to see with just two seats at the windows.

      • Patrick says:

        That must have been a 777 or possibly (but not likely) an A350. I’ve never heard of a 767 with 3-3-3, and I know for sure that none of the U.S. majors have any in such a configuration.

        • Ben says:

          It has always been fascinating to me that the narrow body 757 and wide body 767 share the same type rating. That also resulted in the 757 being practically the largest narrowbody jet, and the 767 the smallest widebody jet ever made.

        • Ben says:

          I believe the 767’s cabin width is too narrow to support 3-3-3 seating even with slimline seats. I know that the basically succeeding 787 barely crams in 3-3-3 seating to the point that many frequent flyers vocally recommend avoiding it in that increasingly common configuration.

  26. Carlos Si says:

    They’ll be leaving American relatively soon as opposed to Delta and United. I’d probably choose the 757 though since I would prefer a few runs each day than once a day (or every few days if layovers are long!), although I understand eventually people up in seniority (and age) might prefer less legs.

    I also can’t help but imagine all the fun routes the 757 used to fly on in their prime; inside the Rockies at high airports, or to Hawaii for those legs too long for a 737 and small enough not to fly empty, or to Orange County, SNA on its 5000 foot runway departing on a steep climb, or even transatlantics or just plain ol’ busy airports. I aspire to fly for the airlines someday and wish I’ll also find a type I’ll enjoy flying. Unless I fly cargo (I don’t see myself flying cargo), it won’t be a 757.

  27. Richard Wiringa says:

    Took a look at the CDG runways using Google Earth. The paint says it’s 27R, not 26R as stated in the article.

  28. JamesP says:

    Now you’ve got me hoping for a go around on my next flight!

  29. Doug says:

    Notwithstanding the media’s fixation on airline disasters (“Plane lands safely in routine maneuver” will never be a headline), I have always had faith in those who, with thousands of hours of experience, are sitting at the very front of the plane. Well, maybe not my first flight (a cheap charter to Europe in a 707 in 1970), but, thanks in large part to you, every flight I take now. I love every clunk, thunk, and engine whine, the pilot to attendant jibber jabber, watching the flaps go down…the whole shebang is pure fun. After much international air travel, I experienced my first go around in a domestic 737 flight recently. It was exhilarating. The turbulence never bothers me, nor do tight turns (hardly ever happens, of course). Because I know there are seasoned professionals up front, and because I’ve read your blog for years. So thanks! Oh, and I like the 767 too.

  30. Craig says:

    As a passenger I’ve been on a few fly arounds, but the most interesting was circa 1986 in Detroit. Couldn’t have been more than 10 seconds from landing at night the entire airport suddenly went dark. Major city blackout. We circled for over an hour before we could land.

  31. Savannah says:

    Saw an empty 764 take off of 23L here at RDU a couple of years back. A 7500ft. runway and they were at eye level before they reached our old T1. Warmed the heart.

  32. Mark Foster says:

    When I flew the 767-200 in the 90’s, it was pointed out to me that the cockpit was designed for the possibility of requiring a Flight Engineer. There was a molding in place of the FE panel.

  33. James Wattengel says:

    My passenger experience with multiple go-arounds:

    In February 1975 I was on a late night United Flight from MEX to ORD with my wife and infant daughter. There was a driving snowstorm and we ended up in a holding pattern. After some time the pilot made his first attempt. Was waved off w/o any explanation.

    We went into another holding pattern. Then another attempt; another wave-off, only this time the pilot said were were catching up with the plane in front, just as you were.

    So back on hold. On this attempt the pilot said that if we could not make the landing they were already cleared to land and Milwaukee because the fuel was running low.

    This time we landed with some slip-sliding on the ground. There was so much snow that the plane bogged down and couldn’t get to the gate position. It took some time to get the stairs out to the plane. The passengers were told to take all the blanket because we still had to slog about 50 yards to the old international terminal.

    it was after 1 am. We spent more time in the pattern than the actual flight and I still have one of the blankets.

  34. Tod says:

    I believe that Ansett Australia had a special designed 767 which required a 3 person crew, the reason is that the unions didn’t want the job losses from going down to a 2 person crew

  35. Bernard says:

    Really enjoyed that story. Your enthusiasm and pride is shining through, even without understanding all the technical lingo.

  36. Peter says:

    Love your blog. But this? There is so much technical speak in here I have no idea what some of this is about with your “flaps at 25” and “flaps 20 takeoff”. For those of us who love flying but have no idea about the technical side of things, can you provide a dummy’s guide as to what you mean? Thanks so much. You’re on my Favourites bar and check in every few days as I love what you write, thanks for all your efforts.

    • Patrick says:

      That was intentional, Peter. The idea was to let it free-flow and not worry about explaining all the jargon. It’s fun and refreshing this way, sometimes. So much of what I normally write is EXPLAINING. This is more of a STORY, for lack of a better word.

      • Susan says:

        More of this please. I don’t know all the technical jargon either, but the way you convey the joy of being in the sky and doing the job right is
        exhilarating.

      • Bill7 says:

        I like it just the way you tell it. Thanks very much.

        -many-time 767 passenger, mainly O’Hare-Stockholm.
        Also have a question about one *very snowy* minimal-flaps
        767 takeoff from Chicago..

    • Patrick says:

      “…For those of us who love flying but have no idea about the technical side of things, can you provide a dummy’s guide as to what you mean?…”

      Have you seen my book?

    • Charley Jackson says:

      It can certainly be daunting, but there are countless YouTube videos that show what’s going on in the cockpit. I’ll never know everything that’s taking place, especially since the crews may be switching between English and their native language, but you can in time get the gist of what’s going on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgqCU6y_6Bc

  37. Jeff says:

    I love flying on a 757 and 767. They just feel like they belong in the air. 737’s are about as enjoyable to be on as a CRJ-700. The don’t feel as robust, if that makes sense. Plus, they look short and squat compared to the 757/767. I flew from ATL to MAD on a 767-400 and preferred it so much more than my return on a 767-300. The Delta One cabin layout was far superior.

    This was a really enjoyable post. As all are.

  38. Ian says:

    So if the 767 is flexible, efficient, and good at turning a profit, why have the airlines in other countries switched away from it? What are they flying instead? Is it just a perception of wanting the newer planes? A desire for Airbus over Boeing?

    • Ben says:

      I wouldn’t say it is necessarily over preferring Airbus to Boeing. The 787 Dreamliner has basically replaced the 767 in Boeing’s product lineup, and many airlines across the world have used the 787 to replace the 767s in their fleets.

  39. Gene says:

    I love go-arounds! They’re the only time we get to feel what performance the aircraft really has. Best ever was in a lightly loaded (I think there were, maybe, 30 passengers) MD83; That baby levitated like a homesick angel.

  40. Kevin Brady says:

    Nicely written Patrick. I’ve been in 6-7 “TOGA”s as a passenger. Once into LAX in the dark ( really dark) in a violent winter Santa Ana storm lightning flashes, thunder, turbulence, certaily on final with gear down, flaps, landing lights, on annAmerican 767 when the engines roared, just as you described, and around we went. I know it’s completely normal and rarely dangerous but there was something in the primitive part of my brain that didn’t like it one bit, and I REALLY wanted to see the ground. There is something about being in the dark and not knowing where you are…you have the instruments and know you’re not likely to hit anything and I know that as well, but my primitive brain somehow doesn’t agree

  41. Simon says:

    One more question. Could a 788 be considered a viable replacement for 757 and continental 767 flights?

    Of course the Dreamliner was originally built for ultra-long haul, but the -8 is rather small and lots of airlines now seem more interested in the 789 and 78X for longer routes So would it be economical to instead use the 788 for the ~200 pax domestic (transcontinental) market? Could a 788 be a reasonable MoM aircraft?

  42. Simon says:

    As a passenger I love the 767’s seating. 2-3-2 means lots of cozy seats for couples at the window, while still keeping the overall cross section manageable. Very mucn unlike the horrors of 1-abreast Triple-7s or 9-abreast Dreamliners. The 2 seats at the windows (instead of 3) is also a great feature of the A330/340 series.

    Patrick, very nice piece. You just have a great way at turning a description of technical procedures into poetry. 🙂 Great for people who want to learn about flying but also for those you already know and enjoy it. Just one question: where do you see the A321LR as not being able to replace the 752? Is it more than just preferring A not take over from B?

  43. Richard Stanford says:

    Now you’ve got me curious. Why is it that all – or at least more – takeoffs aren’t done with Flaps 20 or the equivalent? Is there a good reason to prefer a higher speed on the ground?

  44. Avron Boretz says:

    I don’t know if Japan Airlines still flies 767s, but just a few years back I was flying on one from HND to HNL with a rather strong tailwind much of the way–displaying ground speed well over 700 mph at some points. That and the surprising comfort of the “main cabin” made the flight memorable for me. I’ve always liked JAL, but had previously only flown on their 747s of various vintages.

  45. Scaredy Passenger says:

    You know, maneuvers like go-arounds (which you eloquently call “not the most sensory-friendly thing for customers”!) would be much less frightening for us passengers if we still had the opportunity to listen to cockpit chatter on our headphones.

    Noises aren’t that scary. Being kept in the dark is scary.

    • Tim says:

      I agree. I used to love channel 9 on United. I felt like a kid in the back seat who could at least hear what the grownups up front were saying. It was nice knowing we were headed for light chop before the seatbelt lights came on.

    • Rod says:

      Suddenly switching to cockpit voices (how many nervous passengers would be listening to that stuff already?) may not be terribly illuminating.
      How about playing a recording that explains that aborting a landing is always an option available to either controller or crew for a whole host of reasons, and is a measure that ensures the safe termination of the flight in the best possible conditions? Or some such reassuring wording.

      • Patrick says:

        Yeah, listening in to “channel 9” or whatever. Some passengers might enjoy it, but for the average person this would be useless. Have you ever listen to pilot-controller radio chatter? Just MAKING OUT THE WORDS is difficult enough for people who aren’t used to it, let alone what those words and terms mean.

        • TN says:

          And then there are those like us, the armchair flyers who love listening to LiveATC or the aviation frequencies on our portable scanners, while tracking the flights above us with FlightAware or FlightRadar24. Thanks for the great tribute to a wonderful airplane.

  46. Thomas says:

    I love reading things like this. Thank you. I actually stumbled across this link from a somewhat tech-oriented website/link aggregator.

    Question – from what you describe about flaps 20 takeoffs it sounds like those would have a lot of advantages- airborne faster, possibly less fuel consumptive. Why is that not more regularly performed, is it harder on the airframe?

  47. Sarah says:

    I thoroughly enjoy your eloquent, almost poetic descriptions of what is mostly jargon to me. It’s a view of flying I’ve never experienced and always look forward to your next installment. Thank you for writing.